Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 2012 Wrap Up

 February passed oh so slowly and I'm quite glad that it is over.... School started again at the very end of January so four days out of the week I get a view of the city from bleak school windows. Most of my classes don't seem to be too challenging so hopefully the rest of the semester will go smoothly. 

This winter has been unusually warm and sunny which is a nice contrast to last year when we had incredible amounts of snow. The past month has been mostly clear and I love taking walks when I have a bit of extra time. Union Square is very near to school so I take a trip there about once a month for some shopping (mostly window shopping!).

I am currently in the process of trying to eat a more varied diet and LilLadyLife is definitely one of my inspirations not only in terms of beauty but lifestyle as well. She posted a few of her purchases from Whole Foods which motivated me to go too (I've always loved the atmosphere at Whole Foods) and try out hummus. I also did some research and decided to try out quinoa. Quinoa is grain like, very high in protein, and overall is one of those "good for you" types of foods. I still prefer the taste of white rice but it's nice to change it up a bit. I love cheese and grabbed a ball of fresh mozzarella for snacking (mozarella + tomatoes + EVOO + salt&pepper is the best!). I also wanted to have some sundried tomatoes on hand for pasta and salads. My parents do most of the grocery shopping so I only buy food for home if it's something special that they wouldn't normally buy. We purchase fresh veggies and fruits at asian grocers because it is less expensive than all the fancy, schmancy organic stuff you get at Whole Foods. No hate, just saying.

Yum! Pasta with garlic sauce and sun dried tomatoes! My dad cooked this for me (yes, I need to start cooking for myself ASAP!) and it's delicious. My dad wins at cooking Western dishes while my mom's Chinese dishes are better. But my mom's great at baking both Western and Chinese goodies (she also makes the best homemade pizza ever...).

On Sundays there is a local farmer's market about 10 blocks away from where I live so sometimes my parents and I take a walk there to see what's for sale. I love my carbs so we came home with a loaf of ciabatta bread, one of my faves. I only like ciabatta when it's toasted and warm though. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a piece of warm bread and I'm in heaven! I tried a few different combinations with what I bought from Whole Foods and I loved eating the bread with hummus.

On the 12th, my good friend M celebrated her 20th birthday so we went out to have dinner in the city. I'm like the last blogger to not have Instagram (much less an iPhone) so I have to make my photos look all cool the old fashion way. Thanks Photoshop!

M chose to have dinner at P.J. Clarke's which features a seafood bar in the front half of the restaurant and a very cozy seating area in the back. I loved the bright lights outside the restaurant and the decor was homey and pleasant. The waiter was very accommodating and although the place was packed on a Sunday night, it had an unpretentious vibe.

Their menu is mostly comprised of meaty options and a few choices of fish as well. I have pretty much reverted back to my omnivore ways now although I am planning to going meat-free for awhile soon. 

Our party of five started with the tater tots which were scrumptious. It's a great finger food and definitely good for younger crowds (there were a few tables of families with young children). 

Tater tots will probably always remind me of public grade school lunches but these actually had real potato in them and some herbs to boot!

I love calamari and I almost always get calamari if a restaurant has it on their menu. I have to say P.J Clarke's rendition is not my favorite. Not bad but they don't come close to others that I have had.

I had the Guinness Braised Short Rib for my entree and it was okay. I don't really know what inspired me to order this but the meat was very tender and moist. Looking back, I should have ordered a steak. My dad later told me that short ribs are very fatty and cause heart attacks.... But it's not like I eat it everyday so I think I'll be fine. What is that little brown lump you see on the right?

Well, it's mac and cheese! How cute is that? I wish it was a little bigger because I was expecting a side of mac and cheese but this was a novel little decoration. 

We finished off the evening with some froyo from Pink Berry. I only eat Pink Berry very occasionally because it's so gosh darn expensive and it's loaded with sugar. The bottom left cup is mine.... Yes, I felt very guilty that night.

I bought my first thrifted pieces this month from AuH2O, a boutique style thrift shop located near St. Marks Place. I had visited the store once before in January but did not purchase anything. Earlier this month, Yelp was doing a $20 for $10 (Yelp Deals are like Groupon and Living Social) so I figured why not. I snagged up this dainty dark blue pendant and...

this amazing shirt! My boyfriend would definitely categorize this as a grandma shirt (most things that I like happen to fall into that category) but I adore the print. The necklace was originally $12 and the shirt was $14 but I had $20 in credit and it was Thursday which is student discount day (15%). I paid an extra $2.10 for both items so $12.10 isn't so bad. I totally love the shirt and I am so excited for Spring and Summer so I can style this piece like no other. It's slightly over sized which means I can wear it several ways and the material is a very smooth and lightweight fabric. The brand is unknown to me but all the better!

A few of you seem to like when I talk about Flushing food so of course you have to drink bubble tea whilst in the neighborhood. Again, I don't drink bubble tea very often ($2.50 adds up over time) and it's not very good for you but it's a nice treat once in awhile. My boyfriend drinks quite a bit of it and I always steal his!

In my high school days, my friends I would go to Flushing Mall quite often for food because it was affordable. My favorite dish is the salt and pepper chicken which comes with a heaping plate of chicken, rice, and some side dishes all for about $6. This is definitely not health conscious food but once in awhile is fine by me. 

I was in search of cheap street eats and Mamoun's Falafel had rave reviews on Yelp so I figured it was worth a taste.

This might not be a street cart vendor but it might as well be. There are a few tables on the side of the eatery but mostly people just grab and go. I stood here for about fifteen minutes and at least twenty people walked in and out during that time. The dimly lit hole in the wall atmosphere comes complete with all kinds of stickers featuring underground bands, people, and organizations seeking free publicity on the napkin dispensers.

The $2.50 falafel did not live up to the hype for my tastebuds. The pita was not warmed up and the sauce only permeated the top half of the sandwich. The taste was there but I just wish they kicked it up a knotch and were more generous with the sauce. For $2.50 I can't complain much but they won't be seeing me anytime soon.

After our quick bite at Mamoun's, my boyfriend and I wandered to Grom, a gelato shop at a busy corner of West 4. This was my first time having gelato and it tasted and felt a lot like ice cream. I always assumed gelato was denser but I didn't detect a noticeable difference. They offered an array of tasty flavors and we settled with Cinnamon, Hazelnut, and Tiramisu. My favorite was Tiramusi followed by Hazelnut and I did not care for Cinnamon at all. Desserts always seem to sit badly with me because they are so ridiculously overpriced but my cheap dinner evened things out.

The eco-friendly waste bins at Grom get a huge thumbs up. They had separate receptors for different types of waste which was cool. 

I will end this post with the sensation that swept New York City, the Asian community, and pretty much the world: Linsanity. February was all about basketball and one could not avoid it anywhere. Jeremy Lin shook up stereotypes and expectations, brought life back into the game, and converted many into basketball fans (although I'm not sure how long that will last). 

While I won't be shelling out thousands of dollars to go to Madison Square Garden anytime soon, I support Jeremy Lin and the Knicks and hope they have a great season. Also, you have to admit the puns can be incredibly witty and catchy!

That wraps up my month of February. The stress has yet to seriously hit me but in a few weeks school and all the rest of it should be piling up. What have you been up to recently? Anyone have any must try recipes for a beginner like me to try?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Something New: The Balm's Stainiac

Well, the product isn't new but I'm new to lip and cheek stains. A few years back when I first got into the beauty scene I heard endless raves about Benefit's Benetint, a red stain which could deliver a natural flush to your complexion and pout. I never tried it but a few months ago I purchased a set from The Balm and Stainiac seems to be their version of Benetint.

The tube is pretty much like that of a lipgloss and it retails for $17 at Sephora and The Balm's website. I found mine in a set at TJ Maxx so check out your TJ Maxx and Marshalls for discounted The Balm products!

Out of the three shades that The Balm makes, I have Beauty Queen. Upon initial swatching, I was quite alarmed by the bright fuchsia red color. The consistency is gel like, light and easy to blend.

To my relief, the stain blended out into a natural, just pinched flush and did not look as scary as it did upon initial application. I found that I had a good amount of time to blend out the product before it sank into the skin.

A major issue I have with this product is that it stains my fingers a lot more than where I want the product to be. It seemed to me that the best way to apply this would be with my fingers but I always end up with neon fingers that won't easily wash away. I have to layer this product (especially on my lips) to get the color intensity I want so my fingers end up getting the most staining. I suppose this is a problem that plagues other stains so perhaps it's just me being picky.

In the above photo I am wearing the stain on my lips and you can see that it gives a very natural look. You probably wouldn't be able to tell I have anything at all on my lips if I hadn't told you. It was comfortable to wear and the sweet berry fragrance was pleasant. If you have very lightly pigmented lips and want to add a natural tint to them, this would be perfect for you. If you have pigmented lips, this probably wouldn't show up well on you so I'd say pass.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

At a Glance: Mini Perfume Collection

Here is a quick peek of a small corner of my vanity where I display my perfumes. As you can see I only have one full sized perfume, YSL's Parisienne, which I loved as a sample. I was never a big fan of fragrances so I hoarded up all the little samples I collected from various Sephora orders and promptly forgot to use them. I thought it was about time to start using them up so onto the vanity they go! It actually takes me at least ten uses to finish up a sample which I think is a decent amount of time!Most of the time, perfumes are a complete miss for me. But I have found a few loves along the way, most notably Dior's Jadore (I will buy the full size after I finish off a couple of more of these samples to clear up some table room). I also quite enjoy Clinique's Happy which is almost done as you can see above. I firmly believe in the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" so I have to be able to see products if I plan on using them up! So far, so good.

How do you display your perfumes? How many perfumes do you have in your collection? Do you remember to use your perfume samples?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Before The Bouncy Blushes...

There were mousse blushes. Maybelline has recently come out with their Dream Bouncy Blushes which have intrigued many a beauty junkie due due to their peculiar consistency. With the introduction of a new product means that there is that much less shelf space for Maybelline's older Dream Mousse Blushes which are now discontinued. I picked up Soft Plum during CVS's last clearance sale just to see if these were any good as I have never tried out a mousse blush before.

The ingredients list looks a bit sketchy as I see "dimethicone" peppered about several times at the beginning of the list. This is definitely not one of those "good for your skin" makeup products but then again, Maybelline never tauted it to be healthy by any means. I dislike the feeling of silicone based products and using silicone primers and the like tend to break me out so just a heads up to those of you with similar issues.

The color is lighter and pinker than what I was expecting. This is not at all how I pictured a plum to look but all is well since I don't want to risk looking like I have a bruised cheek. The color in the glass pot is very pretty to look at and there are small shimmer particles suspended in the mousse.

I find the easiest way to apply this is just by dabbing a bit of product onto your ring finger and tapping that across your cheeks. The mousse is very lightweight and it blends away very easily into a satin powder finish. While that can be a good thing because the result is very natural, I can hardly see any color once I have blended out the blush. The swatch above was not fully blended out but the few times I have tried wearing this on my cheeks, I could barely tell I had any color at all. I wish this was more pigmented because the texture is lovely and I did not notice any skin irritation despite the copious amounts of silicone in the product. I guess I will just have to layer on more of this product to compensate for its lack of pigmentation. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise since these blushes are discontinued and if I had fallen in love with these, it would be a hassle to get my hands on them!

Have you tried any of these blushes? If so, what are your opinions on them?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Skincare Routine Pt 2: Weekly Treatments

This is the second part of my skincare routine which covers what scrubs and masks I have been using lately. I think it is important to give your skin a bit of pampering once in awhile to both calm your mind and your skin. I personally love exfoliating to slough away dead cells to reveal bright, plump skin or using a peel off mask to see what has been buried deep inside my pores. I have reviewed most of these products already on my blog so I will link those reviews instead of repeating myself.

These are products I use once or twice a week a few days apart. For example, I will use a scrub like Exfolikate on Monday and then the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask on Thursday. I always apply these products on my skin after cleansing and before my night skincare routine. For scrubs I typically use them on damp or wet skin while masks are applied on dry skin.

I don't believe I have ever mentioned the Queen Helene Julep Mask despite its affordable price tag (around $5 at drugstores). I use this mask when my face feels congested and overly oily which is mainly in the summer. I hardly notice a difference in my skin after using this though so I would not repurchase and I wish it would just hurry up and run out....

The Olay Microdermabrasion and Peel Kit is one of my favorite treatments and I actually favor it over Exfolikate. Please read my original review to find out some more about it.

The Face Shop's White Mud Nose Pack is something I use every other week or less because it is a strong peel off mask. After a hot shower, I dry my nose and apply a thick layer of this mask over my nose and surrounding inner cheeks. The goo hardens and when you peel it off, all the dry sebum and nastiness that gathers to create blackheads and whiteheads are lifted out of your skin. I really enjoy using this and would highly recommend it if you have access to The Face Shop.

To hear more about these products, check out the video below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skincare Routine Pt 1: Day and Night

Am I on a posting binge or what? It's been awhile since I posted daily and it feels good! I recently bought a bunch of new products and I still have many that I have yet to review so the posts will keep on coming!

Skincare is just as important, if not more so, than makeup because it is the canvas where all your makeup is going to go. My goal is to have healthy, radiant and clear skin without the use of makeup and skincare is my solution. I have yet to find my perfect routine for my oily, acne prone skin which is currently a bit normal and sensitive due to the cold weather. I thought I should include a bit of a back story because I feel like it has to do with why I am so keen on "fixing" my skin. I started getting acne around the age of 13 predominantly around my forehead area. I suffered through many years of embarrassment and many mean friends and family made me feel bad about my skin. Some of my "close" friends in middle school used to jokingly tell me that they would get me Proactiv for my acne (I actually never tried Proactiv and have no urge to, probably due to all the teasing). Up until junior year of high school, I had no interest in makeup or anything beauty related. I was extremely lazy and I did not have a skincare routine at all. My mom bought me some face washes and moisturizers but I rarely used them due to laziness. By senior year I started paying a bit more attention to my skin because I had discovered amazing beauty blogs and videos and I think my teenage hormones calmed down a bit. From then on til now my skin has been about the same. I always have at least one or two pimples or small outbreaks at any given time and during a certain week of the month my face will be littered with acne. As I got older I became more confident and it mattered less how my skin looked because I felt comfortable in it despite having a few spots. That was a long background story.... Basically the moral is that it is important to take care of your skin and to not let your blemishes control your life.

I held off from doing a skincare routine post for awhile simply because I'm always changing products and trying new things. For now I quite like most of the items in my rotation and I've used them for long enough to tell you about each one.

Pictured above is my basic morning routine (minus my cleanser which is pictured below). I start off my day by washing my skin with a facial cleanser (I'm not too picky with cleansers) and following up with Thayers Witch Hazel. I put my Thayers Witch Hazel into a spray bottle and swipe away excess moisture with a cotton pad. Although it does not do miracles for my skin, it is gentle and I feel as if it preps my skin for moisturizer. I have been using Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion which I desperately want to use up since I recently finished the full sized bottle last month. This lotion is good for dry skin and I can only use it during the winter or else I will be a grease ball. It's nothing special though and I would not repurchase. I am not a big fan of Clinique's skincare products to be honest. After a moisturizing lotion, I apply a sunscreen. My favorite is Shiseido's Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 38 PA+++ as it smells great, applies easily without a greasy residue, and acts like a makeup primer. I have also been trying out the Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer All Day Moisture Defense Lotion SPF 30 (what a mouth full!) and it is similar to the Shiseido sunscreen minus the scent. I choose either of the sunscreens to use (not both) and they are my favorite sunscreens thus far (the Shiseido one wins because it smells good and it's less expensive).

If I wore makeup for the day, I must remove my makeup (usually as soon as I get home or if I'm lazy, definitely a few hours before bed time). It is crucial to take off your makeup because it can clog your pores and create breakouts. I first use Sonia Kashuk's Eye Makeup Remover on a cotton pad to swipe off my eyeshadow, liner, and mascara. Then I take two to three pumps of Kose Softymo White Cleansing Oil onto my dry hands and massage it onto my dry face. I prefer Shiseido's Perfect Oil Cleansing Oil but I try to only have one cleansing product at the time open. After massaging my face for about a minute with the oil, I rinse my face with warm water to emulsify the oil. I then follow up with a cleanser to get rid of any leftover residue. I am currently using Shiseido's The Skincare Extra Gentle Cleansing Foam (this is also what I use in the morning).

In the nighttime, I splash my face with cold water after brushing my teeth. Then I spritz some witch hazel on my skin and wipe away with a cotton pad like in my morning routine. Then I dab a bit of Bobbi Brown's Hydrating Eye Cream under my eyes using my ring fingers. I take any excess product around my eyes onto my eyelids. This is the first eye cream I have tried and I am not sure that I even need eye cream at my age. It's a nice extra step to make myself feel pampered though. The cream is easily absorbed but I do not think it has any anti aging or anti wrinkle properties. Then I take a quarter sized dollop of La Roche Posay's Toleriane moisturizer which is meant for combination to normal intolerant skin. I LOVE this moisturizer so much! It is basic yet effective. It is formulated without preservatives and fragrance so it is perfect for my skin at the moment because it tends to get sensitive. My skin has definitely felt smoother since using this and I have no experienced any breakouts or negative effects from it. Lastly, if I have any active pimples or spots that are about to turn into pimples, I will dab on some of Up&Up's Maximum Strength Acne Medication which contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. This is a high concentration of benzoyl peroxide  but it does not dry my skin out and it does reduce spots within a few nights of repeated use. I am almost out of it and while it is a very good budget spot reducer (it retails for around $5 I believe) I have a tube of La Roche Posay's famous Effaclar Duo which I am very excited to use.

Check out the video below to see the products and to hear me talk about them some more!